The recent Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner leaving a photoshoot to join a protest has fallen flat. In less than a week, the soda maker pulled the campaign following online mocking and even a spoof by Saturday Night Live.
Critics argue that Jenner, a white super model, handing a Pepsi to an equally handsome white police officer, goes beyond farfetched. Many believe it trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement.
When I first saw the ad, I saw Coca-Cola’s top competitor attempt to recreate the iconic 1971 spot “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” Coke is a brand that for decades has identified as a deliverer of happiness and unity around the world. More recently, it has been “Share a Coke,” and last summer, “Share a Coke and a Song.”
Pepsi, meanwhile, has historically positioned itself as the rebellious younger (smaller) sibling. Youthful celebrity endorsers have pitched Pepsi as a fresh, cool choice. While Coke created a song the whole world sang, Pepsi attempted to tap into this message while staying true to its raucous roots with the Jenner ad.
For community banks and credit unions, however, there are two key takeaways from the Pepsi marketing snafu:
Why should I care?
Pepsi’s attempt at harmony was unbelievable. It was too poppy. The Black Lives Matter movement is raw and very much real. The world doesn’t want to be told what they want. While it may seem incredible to place people of various national ethnicities on a hilltop to sing about Coke, it was more genuine than Kendall Jenner ripping off a wig and joining a passerby protest.
As we compete against the big banks, we need to give people a reason to stop and listen. What do they really want? Our advertising should be less on rates and more on what our members want to do, feel or become.
However, as we learned from Pepsi, message matters. When marketing your credit union or community bank, see it through the eyes of your members.
Don’t be afraid to take risk.
When something like this happens, it’s easy for credit unions and community banks to clam up with their advertising messages. Despite the social media outcry, only 25% had a less favorable view of the soda brand. A survey by Morning Consult shows the majority of Americans surveyed (44%) have a more favorable view of Pepsi after watching the ad. And three out of every four Hispanic viewers embraced the message.
Your financial institution will not disrupt the market by playing conservative. You have a story worth sharing. Taking risks shows confidence. Even when something doesn’t work, you can learn from it and take your marketing message down a stronger path.
Frank Allgood has more than 15 years of experience in every facet of public information and marketing communications. As Relationships Development Leader for Your Marketing Co., he is responsible for strategic brand experiences and marketing initiatives for credit unions and community banks across the country. For branding or rebranding projects, call 864.326.8740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.